Founded in 1567 by Diego de Losada, the capital of Venezuela has served as an important administrative, military and religious center almost since its beginnings.
Thanks to its proximity to the port of La Guaira, Santiago de Leon de Caracas quickly grew into a bustling trade town. By 1722 the country's major university, Central University of Venezuela, was established and with it the town became a cultural and intellectual center.
Today cosmopolitan Caracas is a booming city of nearly 3.5 million inhabitants, boasting some of the most impressive modern architecture in South America and a thriving cultural and arts scene.
The city is home to a melee of fine art museums and galleries, including the MACCSI (Sofia Imber Museum of Contemporary Art) - one of the finest museums in Latin America - with its extensive collection of modern Venezuelan art, as well works by Matisse, Chagall and Picasso, among others.
Must-see places include Santa Capilla, a 19th-century neo-Gothic church constructed in the style of Paris' Sainte Chapelle cathedral; the birthplace of Sim¢n Bol¡var, the Casa Natal de Bol¡var; and the mighty Palacio de Miraflores, palace of former leader Joaqu¡n Crespo.
For a taste of the city's historic colonial character, visit the Petares district. Parque Central is modern Caracas at its best.